A couple of days ago, I met a guy I was certain I knew. But I just couldn’t place the face. We got talking and I learned he had been a local news anchor during one of my sojourns in Los Angeles.
But now he was doing something different in a completely different country and I asked what caused him to change careers. He said he wasn’t sure if he’d stopped being pretty or had simply gotten tired of being petty.
Like Will MacAvoy on HBO’s “The Newsroom”, he was disenchanted with what I’ve come to call the “Gentrification” of news gathering –- that place where journalists take pride in their social position and level of recognition instead of the job they’re supposed to do.
Coincidentally, on the night of the above encounter, the brilliant 1976 film on the Watergate crisis “All The President’s Men” (written by William Goldman) was on television. It reminded me that while the Watergate scandal is now accepted fact, the first revelations were not widely reported and the push back against two plodding reporters struggling to find the truth was intense.
I wondered if the truth would ever have come out if the Washington Post back then had been staffed by today’s leading lights in news gathering.
Early on in the current US election campaign, I decided to bail on what was clearly being turned into a circus, where zingers, words misspoken and outright lying took precedence over substance -- for both sides.
I long for a day when no one will any longer take a call from Donald Trump or provide a time slot for Piers Morgan. Perhaps on that same day, Ann Coulter and Bill Maher will dump the witty, flirty point counterpoint repartee and finally just get a room.
I think the final straw for me was an early Obama ad suggesting that during Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital he’d shut down a factory and thereby caused a woman to die of Cancer.
By the twisted logic required to get to that conclusion, the unfortunate woman who died last night in Toronto during Hurricane Sandy is also a Romney victim.
For if Bain Capital had not saved Staples from bankruptcy, the wind flung store sign which ended a life would not have even been there.
But much as you may want to, you can’t eliminate an American election from your radar screen or social interactions. And recently, in disagreeing with a friend over one of the issues, I discovered that I didn’t have any respect for his “reliable sources” and I doubted he had much time for any of mine.
How did we come to a time where everybody in the media is picking a side instead of plucking at the loose thread that might lead somewhere?
I put it down to the kind of lazy reporting that would rather rely on what’s on Twitter or Youtube than dig out the facts.
Things have gotten so bad in that regard that this morning’s coverage of a downtown fire in the Toronto Star consisted of only what had been tweeted by the fire department and pedestrian witnesses with cellphones instead of any actual reporting from the scene.
Has nobody in an ownership position over there bothered to wonder why anyone would buy a paper when they can just link for free to the TFD twitter feed or flickr?
The result of all this focus on social media and what those in somebody’s particular circle want to hear has led to a daily triumph of the inane over the important and an electorate Stateside inundated with arguments that can only be described as infantile.
Yesterday’s media sensation was a Youtube clip of kids singing an anti-Romney ditty in which sick people “just die”, Polar bears are slaughtered and the oceans run thick with oil.
In my world, this borders on child abuse. And it’s barely removed from the poor, starving Chinese school kids Chairman Mao regularly trotted out to sing his virtues for visiting dignitaries and later rewarded with a bowl of rice and maybe a piece of fish.
Although I’m sure for these particular kids it’ll be Brown Rice and Salmon flavored Tofu that has been organically farmed.
Earlier in the week we had “Girls” creator Lena Dunham’s gushy account of her “first time” with the President.
As far as journalism may have fallen it’s maybe sadder to feel that artists who have traditionally spoken truth to power now become blissed out at the mere thought of politicians fucking us.
As one wag opined, “If you’re equating voting with sex, you’re doing one of them very wrong”.
There was pushback on Dunham from women inclined to conservatism. Including this…
But let’s be honest. Both of those ads preach to the choir and neither forwards any real examination of the issues. Indeed they just push what’s of burning importance further aside while implying childish discussions are the only ones we’re capable of understanding.
Elections are an adult activity and maybe it’s time we started discussing them like adults.